Franchise Law Firms and the Transformation of Personal Legal Services

By Jerry Van Hoy | Go to book overview
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family-oriented work environments and a resulting loss of compensation and status in each firm has led women to seek union protections. Although the union campaigns failed, they helped push both firms toward the franchise organizational structure. To this day, the more entrepreneurial franchise organization (as opposed to the traditional professional bureaucratic structure) is faulted with disadvantaging female lawyers at these firms. Only one of the female lawyers I interviewed was a managing attorney partner or local partner. Nonetheless, all of these attorneys except the one local partner strongly support collective bargaining to provide them with a voice in their respective firms.

It seems apparent that when lawyers are treated as labor to be exploited rather than as valued expert resources they become frustrated, alienated and, sometimes, angry, as do other workers who are not treated with dignity and respect. These are the conditions in which collective bargaining campaigns are often born. Yet the franchise structure potentially averts unionization attempts by offering an opportunity for branch office managers to interpret their positions as individual practitioners. Despite Carlin's ( 1994) proclamation that the individual practitioner's glory days ended 30 years ago, it is nonetheless a more positive ideological orientation than the alternative provided by franchise law firms. But franchise law firm branch offices are not independent practices. They are market-researched outlets for mass-marketed and mass-produced legal services. Only the ideology of the "self-made man" ( Carlin 1994, p.3) of solo practice lives on through local partners and managing attorney partners.

This discussion is largely based upon anecdotal accounts by male managing attorneys (including local partners and managing attorney partners) and upper-level firm managers. At on time both firms employed about as many female as male lawyers. However, since the failed unionization attempts (to be described in this section), currently only about 10 percent of lawyers employed by each firm are female. Of the 55 lawyers I interviewed, only 6 are female.
Although reports vary in consistency, the union-organizing attempts


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Franchise Law Firms and the Transformation of Personal Legal Services


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